Study #1: People who experienced significant stress in the previous year had a 43% increase in risk from death – but this was ONLY true for those who believed stress was harmful to their health. Those who did not believe stress was harmful (even if they did have a lot of it in their lives) were no more at risk than low stress subjects.
Study #2: People who were trained to see stress symptoms (like pounding heart and faster breathing) as signs that their body was simply ‘taking care of business’ by responding in a way that could help their performance were less anxious and more confident. And, what’s more, instead of constricting and increasing the risk of heart disease, their blood vessels remained in a relaxed state (similar to someone responding with courage or experiencing joy).
Study #3: Each major stress event in a person’s life increased risk of death by 30% – except in the lives of those people who reached out to others. People who reported a lot of stress in their lives, AND who also spent time in the company of friends and family, or helped neighbors and others in their community, showed no increase in stress related death.
Action: So, are harmful effects from stress inevitable? Not according to this research. How you think and how you connect with others act can make a huge difference in your body’s resilience.
If we learn to see our body’s stress response as natural and helpful, we may be able to appreciate and tap into our own courageous resilience.
And if, under stress, we find ways to reach out and connect to others (as the oxytocin secreted in those situations prompts us to do), we could become more resilient, and at the same time contribute to the resilience of those around us.
Why not try making peace with stress? Looks like there could be plenty to gain – and not much to lose.
Quote Of The Week: “You can trust yourself to handle life’s challenges, and you don’t have to face them alone.” – Kelly McDonigal
Resource Of The Week: The research described above and its impact on the way we respond to life’s stressors is outlined brilliantly by Stanford Psychologist, Kelly McDonigal in her recent global Ted Talk: How To Make Stress Your Friend. It’s definitely worth a view and a thought. You’ll also find reference links to each of the studies noted above.
Readers Write: In response to last week’s message, Can We Talk, Pause reader TG commented: Real time with others is so valuable and necessary for a full life. TG thought we would enjoy reading this article from the Toronto Sun about a Guelph family who chooses to live like it’s 1986.